A bill that would ban the use of red light cameras is moving forward in the Florida Legislature. The House Economic Affairs Committee on Feb. 14 narrowly approved HB 4011, a bill that would strip cities of their right to monitor and assess tickets at red lights using cameras.
The bill passed 10-8. Its next stop is the Appropriations Committee. If passed, the bill will move to the floor.
State Rep. Travis Hutson said he will remain open to hearing arguments on both sides of the red light camera debate if he gets a chance to vote on the bill.
But, he said in an email, “I am fundamentally opposed to red light cameras because I believe (they put) an unnecessary nuisance and burden on drivers at the expense of trying to make a few dollars, while not providing a verifiably higher level of safety.”
Currently, there are 43 red light cameras issuing citations in Palm Coast. Critics of the cameras say they increase the likelihood of rear-end collisions because they make drivers overly reluctant to run yellow lights or that the cameras are simply a money-making mechanism for the city. Supporters of the cameras say they make the city a safer place for drivers.
The continued debate hinges, perhaps, on conflicting data. A study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety found that fatal red light-related collisions declined an average of 24% in 2011 in cities with red light cameras.
A Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles study released last month found that of the 73 cities in Florida that use red light cameras, 56 saw a reduction in the number of accidents.
In contrast, however, the Virginia Transportation Research Council released a study in June 2007 that found that rear-end collisions at intersections with red light cameras in Virginia increased 27% overall. A 2004 study reported similar results. This study was completed by the North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University’s Urban Transit Institute for the U.S. Department of Transportation.
To further complicate the topic, researchers at the University of South Florida in January 2012 criticized a pro-camera analysis by the IIHS as “logically flawed” and in violation of the scientific method.
State Legislature passed guidelines for citations two years ago, but the topic remains highly debated.
“The senate put language into a bill that was accepted by the house through messaging,” Hutson said. “In other words, there was never a real red light camera bill workshopped through committees. After approval, I believe people believed there was a problem and some companies were taking advantage of the law.”
A bill was filed last year to repeal red light cameras, but it didn’t move forward in the Legislature. The current bill was filed in January by Rep. Daphne Campbell, a Democrat from Miami.